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We applaud the Standing Committee on the Status of Women (SCSW) for addressing the issue of faculty child care. In a recent report, SCSW catalogued the difficulties that the junior faculty face when trying to balance the demands of an academic career and raising a family. We feel that the University should expand child care coverage to junior faculty with deliberate speed.
The junior faculty faces two especially grave concerns when confronting the issue of child care. First, the cost of child care is often prohibitive at the salary level of the junior faculty. In a survey distributed by SCSW, junior faculty using full-time day care services reported spending up to 35 percent of their after-tax income; those using parttime services reported spending up to 20 percent.
A second concern is the coincidence of the junior faculty years with the childbearing years of women. Because the demands on junior faculty are heavy, and the possibility of tenure is far from certain, many faculty members, both men and women, face the wrenching decision of having a child or staying "on track" in their academic careers.
By constructing a full-service care center near Harvard Yard, giving FAS faculty a space priority and subsidizing the costs of care, the University can ensure that junior faculty do not face these dilemmas. Also, by renewing Harvard's commitment to the issue of child care, the University gains a new incentive in its long-standing attempt to attract top female professors. Much of the strength of Harvard lies in the brilliance of its faculty; all else flows from this remarkable collection of scholars. Ensuring the continued excellence of Harvard means ensuring the quality of its its future faculty, i.e., its junior faculty.
This consideration, however, compels us to urge the University to explore the possibility of extending new benefits to not only junior faculty but also to graduate students. Graduate students with children face the same problems as junior faculty, only to a more alarming degree due to much smaller salaries. It is only proper that the University strive to support these academic farm team members.
By expanding its commitment to faculty child care, Harvard has a win-win situation: the faculty and graduate students get top-notch care and Harvard augments its ability to attract the greatest minds in academia.
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